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Can You Sue a Drunk Driver for Damages?

Posted on: July 7, 2022

Many people enjoy going out after work or for a good time out on a Saturday night with friends. There is no harm in having a good time, unless you choose to endanger other people by getting behind the wheel after having too many drinks.

Too often, people either do not know their limits, or they decide to drive after a night out drinking. If you or a loved one have been injured by a drunk driver, you may be wondering if you have legal options and the answer is yes, you do.

Drunk Drivers Cause Serious Accidents

When someone drives drunk, they have extremely reduced reaction times. This means that if someone crosses their path or someone slows down in front of them, they could be unable to stop in time to avoid a crash.

Because a drunk driver cannot stop in time, it often results in no braking whatsoever. This can cause catastrophic injuries because of the high rate of speed at which a drunk driver hits another car.

Common injuries received by victims of a drunk driving accident include:

  • Amputation
  • Broken bones
  • Concussions
  • Other traumatic brain injuries
  • Paralysis
  • Sprains and strains

When you get hit by a drunk driver, you may not have time to react yourself. This could lead to additional injuries and life-threatening conditions. Your ability to recover from these injuries could depend on how quickly you get medical attention and your ability to cover those expenses. The more serious your injuries, the more likely it is that your medical expenses could reach astronomical heights.

Seeking Compensation from a Drunk Driver

The last thing on your mind after a car accident caused by a drunk driver is a lawsuit and collecting money. However, making a call to a lawyer could be the most important step you take.

To get compensation for your injuries, you may need to file a personal injury claim for damages. Your lawyer may try to get you compensation for:

  • Emotional distress
  • Loss of companionship
  • Loss of life enjoyment
  • Lost earning potential
  • Lost income
  • Pain and suffering
  • Present and future medical expenses
  • Rehabilitation costs

Depending on the severity of your injuries, you may face a lifetime of medical care. This care will not come cheap and it can cause financial problems for even the most well-off individuals.

When you file a personal injury claim against the drunk driver, you will need to prove they were negligent in some fashion. To do that, you need to show the drunk driver:

  • Owed you a duty of care to drive carefully and in a manner to not cause harm to others
  • They breached that duty of care by driving drunk
  • Their breach caused an accident where you suffered injuries

The drunk driver may not be the only place you can look for liability. If the drunk driver was over served at a bar, you could also try to hold the bar or restaurant liable for your accident. If the individual was clearly drunk while at the bar or restaurant, you may be able to hold the bar liable for the accident. You would still need to prove the bar’s negligence by over serving a clearly intoxicated person. But that is something an experienced legal team could help you handle.

Dealing with Insurance Companies

When you get into an accident with a drunk driver, their insurance company may contact you soon after the crash. Their reason for doing this is not because they want to see how you are doing but because they want to protect their profits.

You may be tempted to speak with the drunk driver’s insurance company and give them a statement. You may want to tell them how drunk the driver was and speak with them at length about your accident. We strongly urge against this.

The insurance company is not looking out for your best interests. They will use your words against you. You may tell them something seemingly innocent like you looked down for a second. This could be used by the insurance company to argue that you played a role in the accident.

This is why we recommend you do not give a statement to the drunk driver’s insurance company without first speaking with a lawyer. Your attorney can speak on your behalf and even aggressively negotiate a settlement. The insurance company will try to offer you a quick settlement, hoping that you do not think about how much money you will actually need to recover to pay all of your medical bills and cover your other financial losses.

Working with a skilled legal team, you can work together to create an accurate estimate of your future medical needs. This is important to ensure that you do not settle for too little money. The last thing you need after suffering serious injuries in a drunk driving car accident is to settle for too little and end up paying out of your own pocket.

If you end up taking the initial settlement offer, you may have few legal options. Signing a settlement offer is a final decision. You cannot come back to the insurance company later and ask for more money. This could occur, especially with serious injuries, because your settlement funds could run dry. Several years later, you could realize that all of the settlement money has run out but you still have medical bills to pay and other financial losses to cover.

Do not let this happen to you. Do not let this tragic situation become an even more traumatic experience. You can avoid this by working with a skilled legal team.

Criminal Acts

Drunk driving is a crime, but that does not mean you will automatically receive compensation if they are charged with a crime. A prosecutor may decide to bring criminal charges against the drunk driver, but that may not provide you with any compensation. Too many victims fail to realize this and waste time, effort, and energy waiting for a criminal conviction when it will not bring them the monetary compensation they need.

A criminal case is different from a civil case. A criminal case can help your civil case and the judge may require the drunk driver to pay you some form of restitution, but it will not come anywhere close to covering all of your medical expenses or lost income.

This is why it is important for you to point things out to the police at the accident scene. Tell the police that the other driver is slurring their words or has bloodshot eyes. Police are well equipped to handle drunk drivers and will arrest the other driver if they suspect they have been driving drunk. They may even test the other driver for a blood alcohol level over the legal limit.

While this is good for the police to document, it does not mean you will automatically receive compensation. This report can be used by your legal team to help prove the other driver was drunk and at fault for your accident and injuries.

A Freehold Car Accident Lawyer at Ellis Law Helps You Recover When You Are Injured by a Drunk Driver

Even if you take all the right steps, you cannot control how other people act and whether they drive drunk. To find out your legal options and to get the compensation you need, speak with a Freehold car accident lawyer at Ellis Law. Contact us today at 732-308-0200 or fill out our online form to schedule your free consultation with our experienced team. We proudly serve our neighbors in Freehold, East Brunswick, Toms River, Middletown, Jersey City, Neptune, Hudson County, Union County, Essex County, and Ocean County, as well as Brooklyn and New York, New York.

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